Overcoming the Fear of Surfing Bigger Waves (and Everything Else)

Don't believe it.

Don’t believe it.

I’m no expert on overcoming fears, but since I started surfing, there are very few things in my day to day at work that elicit the same response as seeing a large outside set wave heading towards me. I recently spoke at a conference in front of a group of intelligent, scientific people. Never once in my preparation or during my presentation did I wish I was somewhere else until it passed. I can’t say the same for plenty of moments during surf sessions.

I’ve linked to several free articles and would recommend reading the Fear Project (also below), but here are a few things that have helped me. I am hardly fear-free, I have “fight or flight” kicking at some point in 2 out of every 4 sessions, but I’ve changed my relationship with fear when I’m out in the water. And, when it comes to fear or nervousness relating to situations outside of surfing, I have big waves as a reference point to help me downsize whatever situation is in front of me.

Repeated exposure to safely uncomfortable conditions

Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it…that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear. ~ Dale Carnegie

I really want to be good at surfing. Not to win competitions or to impress anyone, I just want it to be an activity that I continue improving and excelling at in my life. I end up thinking about it quite a bit and because I’m able to paddle out almost every day, I can have some days where I work on specific things without the risk of wasting one day out of seven while on vacation.

I periodically go out in less than comfortable conditions for me personally. This isn’t to say I’m intentionally unsafe, but I’ll go out a low tide, for example, knowing I’ll catch less waves and probably be humbled, simply because I want to feel what the ocean is like when the waves are faster and more hollow. Recognizing what has to be different involves a reconsideration of existing habits (“I REALLY need to paddle faster to catch these”) and an improvement in form. Any regular surf day after a low tide session is met with more confidence. The same goes with wave size.

Become an expert at duck diving

Duck diving is one of the most powerful functional moves in surfing. Not only does it help you conserve energy, but doing it the right way, consistently, reduces your chances of getting hammered unnecessarily. Not only that, but nothing is better than ducking under a giant oncoming wave, popping out the other side unscathed, energized and ready for the next one.

Not only does it provide you more options (tools) while you are in the water, it is safer and works with the flow of the ocean. I still ditch my board sometimes. I don’t like to, but it happens. When you duck dive, you are hanging onto your board with more control, so even if you don’t go deep enough and get sucked backwards, the thing you are hanging onto is bound by physics to be your quickest ride to the surface. I realize this isn’t possible for all board types (long boards, for example), but if your’e on a board you can technically push under the water for a second or two, work at perfecting that shit, you’ll thank yourself later.

If John John Florence duck dive the length of his pool, you can learn to duck dive your board for 1-2 seconds…

Learn to love wiping out
I’m no spring chicken. My injuries take longer to heal than when I was in my twenties and thirties. That said, I’ve found that many of my surfing injuries are from fighting the energy in the waves rather than going with the flow.

I started noticing friends who were great surfers laughing after they wiped out (or at least giving a “whoooo!” sound afterwards). So I started laughing at myself, how ridiculous I must have looked yelling “don’t kill me, I’ve got kids!” to an uncaring wave while rag dolling over the falls. In laughing at myself, I’ve changed the association with wiping out into a positive experience and have found that I’m now significantly more relaxed during a wipeout (opening your eyes under water helps as well).

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” ― Jim Morrison

Watch videos of people wiping out
When I first started surfing, I was so intent on getting good fast that I didn’t want to “poison” my mind with visions of people wiping out. Somehow, I figured, if I didn’t watch people wipe out, I would do it less.

That’s a laughable thought now, but as soon as I started, I learned a few key things:
1. Everyone wipes out, even the pros. It’s part of moving quickly across the top of water on a liquid slope.
2. Nearly 100% of wipeouts you see online are not fatal. The people in those spine tinglers lived to tell their story and surf another day.
3. Watching people wipe out shows you new ways to wipe out. What better way to learn to love something than to get better at it?

I love watching videos of The Wedge. It is amazing to me that so many people love to surf a wave that so clearly hates humans.

Wait for your will to catch bigger waves to outpace your fear of them

This is one of the most important parts. You need to play it “safe” and should always know your limits, but until you have the interest to ride bigger waves and that interest outweighs your fear of some of those that come in, you’ll stay where you are. That’s just fine. Once you catch a few larger waves, see it goes very well and get the buzz that goes along with the ride, they won’t seem as big.

My will to catch bigger waves lead to me doing quite a bit of research, including watching videos, reading blog posts and reading The Fear Project. I’ve listed some of those links below. Whether it is surfing or anything else you’re trying to tackle, my sincere wish is that something in this post gives you the motivation to go for it.

The Fear Project by Jaimal Yogis


Your Brain on Fear

How to overcome fear of bigger waves/how to paddle out?

The best surfing advice you’ve ever been given: Feel the fear and do it anyway

Surfology’s “Who Knows?” Q&A Question about Mental Exercises to Overcome Fear

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Fun Things to Do With Kids in Dominical and Uvita, Costa Rica

I recently had someone ask me what they could do in Dominical with a 1 and a 3 year old for a week and a half. Having young children, I know this question is somewhat loaded, in that the real goal is what can be fun for both parents and kids. It’s the reason so many children’s movies these days are filled with inside jokes only adults will get. So it goes with travel activities.

The list below is what I offered, so I figured I may as well turn it into a post to be referenced the next time we have friends ask about activities here.

  • Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary: We went with some friends and I was really impressed (wasn’t sure what to expect, but I would go back for sure). They take in rescue animals, so many beautiful birds, monkeys, armadillos, sloths. Each animal has a story and the people who run it are super passionate about saving them. As many animals as possible are released back into the wild, but some have to stay indefinitely because they wouldn’t survive in the wild. The tour is long enough to be worth the visit, but short enough so kids don’t get too antsy (we had ages 3 months – 6 years between four kids).
    Copyright Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary

    Copyright Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary


  • Friday Feria (Farmer’s Market): It’s on the north side of Domincal off of the main entrance road, near Mono Congo and Mama Toucan’s Natural Food Store). There is another feria on Tuesday mornings in Tina Mastes (you have to go early, be there by 9am at the latest because much of the good stuff is gone by then). The one on Friday in Domi lasts longer, you don’t need to get there early and I’ve seen vendors there as late as 2pm.
  • Cafe Mono Congo: It’s a great little cafe that is a hub for a lot of people, tourists and locals alike. The staff are super friendly and there are plenty of places to sit down, either in the main area, on swings at a “bar” or at a table overlooking the Baru River. You can sit down, relax and the kids can run around a bit, write with chalk on the walls, etc. We go on Fridays or Saturdays because we’re not in a hurry and they can run around while we wait for breakfast.
    Mono Congo Chalk Art

    Copyright Cafe Mono Congo


  • PorQueNo?: This is a popular restaurant a little south of town, near the water. It’s beautiful, waves smash against the rocks. They have awesome pancakes for breakfast and are kid friendly. Sidenote about Costa Rica: Ticos (Costa Ricans) are very kid friendly, it’s really a noticeable difference from other countries, so when going into many restaurants, you’ll notice that feeling exists even in places of business. PorQueNo? has a little “kids corner” in the lobby, so while you’re sitting at your table, they can play with toys or grab some and bring them back to the table, no worries.
  • Dominical Beach Frontage Road: I don’t know what this is technically called, but it’s the road that Tortilla Flats is on, behind the lifeguard stand at Playa Dominical. They have a lot of vendors there selling gifts and souvenirs. That won’t take you too long to do, but if you’re by the beach or in town, it would be cool to check out. A vendor named Alex is usually there (out in front of Tortilla Flats), he makes cute toys out of found objects in nature.
    Dominical Toys by Alex
  • Family Beach Day: Playa Hermosa. Playa Dominical is great, but many families we know of (and ours) go to Playa Hermosa for family beach days. You can sit under trees, the ocean is close and depending on when you go, there will be lots of kids there. They have a few vendors selling ceviche, pipas (coconuts), etc. We take snacks and beer in a cooler and then buy pipas and ceviche for the novelty. I’ve lived here about a year and a half and sharing a cold pipa with my kids on the beach never gets old.
  • Ponzo Azul (Waterfall) in Dominicalito: It has been raining, so i’m sure the waterfall is going strong, but there’s a little pond area there where you can swim in fresh water. You go through the Dominicalito pueblo, cross the bridge on the left and you’ll see it up about 500 meters on the right (car park on the left). There are bigger waterfalls in the area, but that one is easy to get to without a hike. 1 minute of walking from your car and you’re there. Tip the older guy sitting there, he watches cars for tips (and beers, which is what i usually give him when I pass by).
  • Costa Kids Yoga: I think this is Mondays, but check out their page. It’s in a beautiful place (Manoas Luxury Camping and Villas) and the kids have fun, my daughter loves it and where she learned one of my favorite pre-bedtime phrases to calm down and go to sleep: “Peace starts with me.” 

    Costa Kids Yoga

    Copyright Costa Kids Yoga

  • Community Carbon Trees (aka Tree Jenny): I don’t know how often she does these, but kids LOVE her, my daughter is a huge fan. She runs an organization that plants trees. Her energy is great (she was dressed up like a bee when I went) and teaches kids about the environment, planting trees and you can sponsor/plant trees to make your trip “carbon neutral.”
  • Uvita/Ballena National Park (the Whale’s Tail): A little further south than Dominical, but also a great place to go to the beach. Uvita is slightly bigger than Dominical and has two big supermarkets (called BMs), so you’ll likely go there anyway for groceries. There’s a toy store across the street from the BM in Uvita (just FYI).
  • Catarata Uvita (Waterfall): I haven’t been yet, but this one is bigger and apparently beautiful. It’s $1 per adult. Take a left at the BCR bank in Uvita (you’ll see the big square sign) and follow the road, you’ll see it or people driving/walking to it.
  • Manuel Antonio: This is a great little day trip, it’s fun to go there to “get away” from Dominical. There’s an awesome breakfast place called Emilio’s (we pretty much go every time we head to MA).
  • Villas Rio Mar (in Dominical, along the river past Mono Congo): It’s almost like a little country club, but they have villas there. We go because if you eat lunch there you can swim in the pool while you’re eating and the pool is big. A fun place to relax for a couple of hours (they have a little playground as well).
  • Ice Cream (Delicias on the main road in Domi): Ice cream. It makes kids and parents very happy. :)

I hope this is a helpful list of things to do and if you have any more ideas or suggestions, please add them in the comments.

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The Four Day Work Week (4DWW)


Image: Nadyne Harts

This isn’t a post about the 4 Hour Work Week, best selling book by Lifestyle Design guru Tim Ferris that happens to be a big motivator to those in the Digital Nomad community. Nothing wrong with a 4HWW, but it’s a personal situation that involves outsourcing your work to other people who are working so you can be absent. The 4DWW is about sharing in that time off with employees so that everyone has a little more time to enjoy and live their lives.

4DWW: The Pilot

We recently started a 4DWW pilot program at my company. I shared my story (below) and the slide deck I presented from at the company meeting (our last Friday before starting) on Facebook. I got some incredible feedback in the comments, people asked me to post this online so others could see it. We’re not the first and PR wasn’t the goal. My sincere hope is that by sharing our experience, other companies will have the confidence to take the leap and give this a shot. We ARE out to prove that we can be a leading company in our space, highly competitive and continue serving our customers through the friendly support they’ve always had, while giving ourselves and families more time, which is truly our most valuable commodity.

Results (So Far)

One month in, I can honestly say it has been wonderful, but not necessarily easy. Any big shift in work requires change. Change in your mindset, processes and approach to your workload. Sundays are no longer “oh man, tomorrow is Monday”, they have turned to “I gotta get my list together, I have limited time to knock things out”, which I’ve found is a much better way to approach the week.

Here’s my story and the presentation:

“Today we started a 4 Day Work Week pilot program at Mosio. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for awhile now and we finally have the team, the traction and the systems in place to make it a success.

This move is very personal to me. I had a dark, horrible year in 2013, in the middle of difficult, but necessary changes at the company, and the death of my grandmother (Papa), my biggest entrepreneurial inspiration. For 5+ months I was working 60-70 hour weeks. Stressed, depressed, but chugging along, hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel.

I would work a full day, dinner with the family, kid in bed and then back to work until 1-2am, off to sleep/worry, only to do it again the next day with a baby on the way. At one point I told my wife “I would never do anything to hurt myself, but right now I don’t care if I live or die.” Seriously heavy shit. I kept telling myself “right the ship, then make the change”, that got me through it.

I know that many people in the world are literally working themselves sick. Chronic stress is linked to the 6 leading causes of death. 18% of US workers work 60 hours per week, some are barely making ends meet. I feel privileged we are able to offer this extra day per week to our team, our families and ourselves.

If you’re interested, here’s my presentation, the final slide has links to references we researched in making the move.


4DWW Presentation (click the link to download)


Other 4DWW Companies:

Serps Invaders Introduce Four-Day Work Week

Treehouse: This Company Has A 4-Day Work Week, Pays Its Workers A Full Salary And Is Super Successful

A La Mode: OKC Real Estate Company Offers Unlimited Vacation, Four-Day Work Week



Filed under Life Hacks, Motivation, Tips and Tricks, Work and Business

Bucket List Item: Paragliding (in Costa Rica)

Copyright Alex Badilla/Tandem Paraglide Costa Rica

Copyright Alex Badilla/Tandem Paraglide Costa Rica

I’ve wanted to go paragliding for about 22 years, basically when I first discovered it. Although I’ve been skydiving, it wasn’t one of those “I gotta do this!” activities that paragliding held for me. Anyway, having lived in Costa Rica for nearly a year and a half, on nice days I kept seeing gliders fly over our house from a launch just up the mountain.

I ended up getting in touch with Alex Badilla from Tandem Paraglide Costa Rica to set up a flight. Alex is super professional and another flyer told me at the launch site that he was known as “the guy” because of his working with one of the greats in Costa Rica named Grampa Ninja (recently deceased, though not from paragliding).

I brought a Go Pro and made a video about it. It’s definitely something I plan on doing more of, but with limited time for activities and my love of surfing, it may not take hold as much as it might otherwise. Flying gently through the sky in a chair made of nylon and webbing provides a perspective (and perma-grin) that is unmatched, I’d highly recommend it. To fly over the jungle and Pacific Ocean was truly magical.

If you have a bucket list or like me, are building one as you go, pick an item and go for it.

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac

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What Are You Waiting For? DO IT.



You know your “it”, a hobby, a new business venture, selling it all and hitting the road, all of the above. I just read an article about an inmate on death row who has been in prison for 17 years waiting to die due to a testimony from one witness: the person who killed the person Richard allegedly paid for the hit. His proclaimed innocence, the twisted version of justice (the person who did the killing did not receive the death sentence as part of his plea bargaining) are for a different post on a different blog. Reading Richard’s words, his viewpoint of the world, how he finds a way to laugh, to love, hope and his realizations that a good life need not be complicated, touched me. It made me realize I needed to hug my family more, give more love, more compassion and I needed to choose some new goals and get after them.

Some friends were joking the other night with the phrase “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” discussing various elements of decisions and personal safety. Jokes aside, it is a good question, one worth asking any time we have something pulling us forward, a calling from our heart, saying “trust me.”

A quote on my Facebook feed this morning said “doubt kills more dreams than failure ever could.” So true, so unnecessary.

92% of people don’t realize their New Year’s Resolutions, but many people don’t even get started. Take a step, do one thing towards a goal you have. Write down the goal right now, write down 5 steps you need to take to get it done, then do one. Wake up tomorrow, do the next one.

Rooting for you over here, you got this!

TLDR; Freaking do it.



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Tips for Crossing the Costa Rica/Panama Border with Children and a Car


Tips for Crossing the Costa Rica/Panama Border with Children and a Car

This is Luis. Luis is a hustler. He helps confused gringos with too many bags cross the Panama/Costa Rica border. His only tools are a pen, mobile phone and people skills. I love meeting people like Luis because he reminds me that true entrepreneurial spirit isn’t about industry press, funding rounds, exit strategies, head count, taxes, etc. It’s about creating solutions to problems and busting your ass to make things happen. Thank you for being there when we needed you, Luis.

My family and I recently spent a two week trip in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. We have been traveling now for 53 days, to Mexico, U.S., Costa Rica, Panama and now we’re back in Costa Rica. With two kids and more luggage than we probably need (we spent Christmas with family in the U.S. and accumulated gifts), we wanted to drive our car south to the Panama border (Sixaola side) to get to Bocas. Traveling in a car means you don’t have to pack so neatly, so tightly. You have the opportunity to spend less mental effort in the traveling exercise. Here are some things I learned on our journey to and from the border.

1. Don’t take your car, it’s not worth it.
Unless you are traversing Latin America in your car, there is no reason to take it from Costa Rica to Panama. If you insist, here is an incredibly accurate way to do it, the photos are spot on and just remember you need to visit 5 offices. We were determined to do it, had our attorney do the appropriate paperwork (cost was $60 and two hours out of the way to meet him to pick it up after the initial meeting), I read up on getting the car to the ferry in Almirante, etc. All of that planning, time and money spent only to find out after visiting said offices, getting our car sprayed and spending about 2 hours in lines, than there is some new Panamanian law stating that a Costa Rican car can only come in if the person driving it is a Costa Rica Resident. Being that we’re 90 day border-jumping touristas, it didn’t matter that all paperwork had my name on it, all stamps, dotted i’s, t’s crossed, etc were in order, they wouldn’t let the car through. Luis spoke with someone who said we could come back later and they could help us out, but it was going to be a 3 hour wait and we were afraid that once we got the car into Panama, it would be difficult to get it out. So we parked it on the Costa Rica side in a parking lot (you can see it down the hill to the left if you walk out of the Costa Rica immigration office, $9/day). We rented a taxi/bus for our family of 4 for $40 from Sixaola to Almirante, but I know this can be cheaper if you share a bus with others and don’t have the bags we have. We travel alot, but our experiences are not what I would call the “light and cheap” type. We don’t waste money either, but if spending it is necessary, we do it, which brings me to my next point.

2. Utilize assistance, but go with your gut on things.
Luis, pictured above, was a huge help, both ways. As a father, traveling internationally can be extremely stressful to ensure the safety of your family, make sure everyone is where you can see them and remaining calm when children are distracted by literally everything. Some people are ridiculously independent, others are paranoid they’re getting ripped off. There’s something empowering about trusting someone, letting them do what they do, for a fee, so you can focus on other important things, like “do you have visual on her?” comments with your wife about your daughter. I was skeptical at first, a small handful of people were willing to help, from showing us parking spots to watching our car. Luis walked up, said “I help people cross the border, if you need me, I can help.” Then he brought over 4 immigration slips for me to fill out, asked if I needed a pen, and gave us space. Not only did he show me to all 5 offices, when the 5th one didn’t work out, he walked me back to those where he knew I would get a refund for the taxes and insurance. On top of that, Luis was waiting for us in Almirante with a driver and bus to help us on our way back.

My office for two weeks in Bocas Del Toro

3. Include your children in the process.
Ticos love children, it’s a wonderful thing. Panamanians do as well, we found out. In a long line of faces trying to get their documentation stamped, a smiling and waving child saying “hola!” can do wonders for your processing time. Families can go to the front of the lines and aside from maybe 2 sighs from those in a hot line, none of the officials care. At immigration they need to see faces anyway, so bring your kids up first, have them say hello and then they can go back to doing whatever you need them to do to remain occupied.

4. If you’re working, take the day off on border crossing days.
This isn’t always a luxury and our plans got snafu’d when our kids got sick in Puerto Viejo and had to be taken to the clinic. Doctor’s orders were that we had to stay until Monday, which meant our plan of crossing on Saturday were foiled. I usually try not to do meetings on Mondays anyway, but sometimes you have to be on calls when clients can and want to do so. Even if you’ve crossed a border before, you have no idea how long things can take and there’s very little (nothing) you can do to speed things up. Having a phone call scheduled before or after means you are rushing the crossing at one point of the day or the other. Reduce your level of stress, take the day off, especially phone calls and if you absolutely have things you need to do, they can wait until you get to your destination.

TLDR; Don’t take your car, ask for help, use your children as ambassadors and take more days off. :)

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Enjoying the Antifragility of a Location Independent Lifestyle


I suffer from a deep seeded, subconscious, feeling that tells me that I should be doing something that sucks to make money. I often feel guilty about the amazing life I’ve created through a location independent business that finds me walking down a beautiful Gold Coast foot path on a sunny tuesday afternoon checking out the bikini-clad ladies cruising by on roller-skates and skateboards. Totally, 100% first rate problems… but problems none the less.
Growing up I was instilled with a work ethic that involved getting up at 6:30 am and working outside in the cold dirt all day. We build houses and this intense work ethic still lays the foundation for the way I see the world. It’s taken lots of leadership courses and business success to get me to the point now where I can say to myself, “It’s ok to be here. Keep going.”
It’s not like I work less. To be honest, I work all the time… but work is like play to me now. My company makes internet radio programs. We’re not millionaires yet, but we live lifestyles that I imagine many millionaires would be envious of.
So when I’m walking down a beautiful Australian on a tuesday afternoon, watching girls in bikinis; I’m also listening and taking notes for important books that will improve my decision making in the future. Books like Antifragile by Nicholas Nassim Taleb.
Antifragile is exactly what a location independent life is all about. It’s answering the question, “how do I build a life that improves with chaos?” If I were kicked out of Australia tomorrow, my business wouldn’t be effected. If the US economy collapsed tomorrow, my business would hurt, but because I have clients all over the world, I would simply have to restructure things.
We’re moving from the Gold Coast to Costa Rica soon and I see no impact on business. I’ll be able to cut down on expenses and the time zone will be better for working with a few clients in New York. But aside from that, there will be no impact on the business. That’s the anti-fragility of a location independent business.
Ian Robinson is a entrepreneur world traveler. You can listen to his podcast at LoveAffairTravel.com or learn more about self improvement at IanRobinson.net.

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